Denzel Washington Vs. 'Sully' Sullenberger

Denzel Washington has saved a lot of things in his movies, as chronicled in our recent piece on that very subject, but in his new movie "Flight," he plays a hero with a dangerous secret. As airplane pilot Captain Whip Whitaker, he miraculously saves many lives with his daring maneuvers during a plane crash, but it's possible his drink and drug abuse was a factor in the disaster. Will he come clean or continue being hailed as a hero?

We've decided to put Whitaker up to the test by pitting him in a battle with "Miracle on the Hudson" pilot Chesley Burnett "Sully" Sullenberger, whose masterful water landing on January 15, 2009, saved 155 souls. What did you do with your day today?


Whip Whitaker: Pilots (fictional) SouthJet Flight #227 into a field after rolling the plane over 180 degrees mid-air in order to level out after catastrophic engine failure due to mechanical error.

Sully Sullenberger: Pilots (real-life) US Airways Flight #1549 into the Hudson River after catastrophic engine failure caused by hitting a large flock of birds after takeoff.

Advantage: Sully. While Whip may have pulled off a more daring move in the movie, you can't beat actual, dyed-in-the-wool heroics.

Number of Passengers Lost

Whip Whitaker: Six (4 passengers, 2 crew)

Sully Sullenberger: None.

Advantage: Sullenberger. Whitaker's hot dog maneuver may have saved most of the passengers onboard in a far more dire situation, but Sully's zero fatality record is hard to argue with.

FlightGood Looks

Whip Whitaker: He's played by Denzel freakin' Washington, who somehow still looks like he did in "Glory."

Sully Sullenberger: Balding, wispy grey hair, white mustache, piercing blue eyes.

Advantage: Whitaker, because he got game.


Whip Whitaker: Consumed copious amounts of beer, vodka and a big ol' bump of cocaine before (and during) the eventful flight.

Sully Sullenberger: Sober as a preacher on Sunday.

Advantage: Add another notch to Sullenberger's belt, thanks to Whip's wild, boozing ways.

Significant Others

Whip Whitaker: His girlfriend, Nicole Maggen (Kelly Reilly).

Sully Sullenberger: His wife, Lorraine "Lorrie" Sullenberger.

Advantage: Gotta give this one to Whitaker, as British actress Reilly (best known as Watson's wife in the "Sherlock Holmes" movies) is smokin' hot as a recovering heroin addict/photographer. We do have to mention, though, that the two of them, despite the age difference, look shockingly similar.


Whip Whitaker: Kind of a mess when he's drunk — he even takes a nap at the controls — but in times of crisis, the man knows exactly what to do. He uses his coke-enhanced brain to make the crazy leaps in logic you need to survive.

Sully Sullenberger: Remained completely calm and collected during the crisis, and he stayed onboard the unflooded compartment of the plane until everyone was evacuated. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg nicknamed him "Captain Cool."

Advantage: We salute you, Captain Sullenberg, for keeping your head on a swivel when you found yourself in a vicious cockfight.

Captain SullenbergHonors

Whip Whitaker: We're not telling.

Sully Sullenberger: Awarded Masters Medal by the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators; Key to the Town in Danville, California; Medal of Valor from San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District; honored with a standing ovation during the Super Bowl XLIII; and made a member of the French Legion of Honour.

Advantage: Yeah, we're gonna call this one for Sully too. Any problem with that, buddy?

And the Winner is…

Sully Sullenberg, in a dramatic 5-to-2 victory. Whitaker may have been bold in the face of danger, but his character flaws ultimately get the better of him. To find out if he ultimately conquers his demons, however, you have to see the movie when it opens on November 2.